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News from the Northern Plateau

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Wildhorse Resort and Casino expands

PENDLETON, Ore. - The Wildhorse Resort and Casino on the reservation of the Umatilla Confederated Tribes has recently completed a $15 million addition. Two new restaurants are part of the renovation. Traditions is a buffet restaurant with an open-hearth grill where guests can watch their food being prepared. Plateau is a fine dining restaurant with views of the Blue Mountains. A huge, modern kitchen was also added, capable of cooking 100 plated items at a time. Northwest regional cuisine will be featured with an apple wood grill providing a main focus.

Players is a new lounge with fiber optic lighting that opens onto Wildfire Cadaret, a nightclub reminiscent of Las Vegas where dancing takes place on a sunken dance floor of gold and bronze. Live music will be offered every week from Tuesday through Saturday; regional groups will be featured. The lighting system is among the most technologically advanced in the area.

Idaho counties protest land into trust request

PLUMMER, Idaho - Commissioners in two northern Idaho counties are protesting the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's request to put 2,810 acres in trust which would remove them from the tax rolls - despite the economic impact the tribe is providing to counties in the region. Kootenai County says it would lose $28,560 annually and Benewah County claims it would lose $25,000.

A recent study by the University of Idaho shows the tribe has an annual impact on the region's economy of a quarter of a billion dollars. The tribe also recently announced it would be constructing a 100,000-square-foot building off the reservation in Kootenai County that would employ 75 or more people, the majority of whom would likely be non-Indians. The tribe has also pledged $1 million over 10 years to help fund a recreation center off the reservation and also gave $100,000 to help construct a visitor center in nearby Coeur d'Alene.

Not all commissioners agreed with the position that was taken. One argued that the commissions were missing the bigger picture of the economic impact of the tribe while focusing on a few dollars. The long-range goal of the tribe has been to reacquire traditional lands and have them placed in trust, and this is simply another move in that direction.

Warm Springs Reservation elects new tribal council

WARM SPRINGS, Ore. - The Warm Springs Reservation recently elected a new tribal council, ''probably the biggest change ever that we've had in modern times,'' said Louie Pitt Jr., director of government affairs and planning.

There are three districts on the reservation. The north end is primarily Warm Springs people and holds three seats on the council. Ron Suppah, Aurolyn Stwyer and Rafael Queahpama were elected. The central portion, or Agency district, is recognized as a mix but made up largely of Wasco members. They also have three seats; and Bernice Mitchell, Stan ''Buck'' Smith and Austin Greene were elected.

The southern, or Seekseequa, district is primarily made up of Paiute tribal people on this confederated reservation. Problems arose with mailing instructions for the mail-in ballots during the original vote in this district, so a second election was held April 30. This district has two seats. The two people elected were Wendell Jim and Wilson Wewa Jr.

In addition to the eight elected council members, a permanent chief is named from each district and each retains a lifetime membership on the council. ''It gives a traditional mesh with the more contemporary board,'' Pitt explained.

Resort and cultural institute receives award

PENDLETON, Ore. - The Wildhorse Resort and Casino and Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, both located on the Umatilla Reservation, received a Tourism Industry Awareness Award at the Oregon Governor's Tourism Conference in mid-April. The award recognizes a business or organization demonstrating ''what's good for the tourism and hospitality industry is good for Oregon.''

Travel Oregon CEO Todd Davidson made the presentation. He noted how the two groups had worked hard for nine years to support the expansion of tourism, including attending trade shows there and abroad to promote tourism and how they had cooperated in other efforts with Travel Oregon. Davidson also noted how the resort/casino and cultural institute were major sponsors of regional visitor-oriented events such as the Pendleton Round-Up and the Lewis and Clark bicentennial anniversary.